Horrible Bosses

by Jeff Beck, Guest Film Critic
Horrible Bosses
RICHMOND, VA (HNN) - Seth Gordon’s “Horrible Bosses” is another one of those comedies that came out of nowhere and ended up being quite surprising thanks to the recent tradition of misleading trailers. The trailer for the film had made it look like it would be ok at best, not really showing much in the way of comedy, but it turns out that this is a good thing. Some trailers for comedies go way too far to show you what you’re going to get and therefore they end up spoiling all the best parts. The trailer for “Horrible Bosses” gives you a taste, but there’s much more where that came from.

The plot involves three regular guys, Nick (Jason Bateman), Dale (Charlie Day), and Kurt (Jason Sudeikis), who all hate their jobs due to their bosses. Nick is annoyed by his boss, Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), not giving him a promotion he’s worked incredibly hard for. Dale is constantly sexually harassed by his boss, Dr. Julia Harris (Jennifer Aniston), at the dentist’s office he works at. Kurt’s workplace has recently been taken over by the son, Bobby (Colin Farrell), of the former owner, Jack (Donald Sutherland). The problem is that Bobby is extremely irresponsible and doesn’t care if the company gets run into the ground or not.

One night at a bar, the three men start to discuss hypothetically killing their bosses, but then after the harassment continues, they decide to pull it off for real. In order to do this however, they decide they need to hire someone, which leads them to Dean (Jamie Foxx), who won’t actually commit the murders, but does offer them some advice such as not leaving any trace behind and having them kill each others’ bosses. With this advice in mind, they go about trying to figure out the best way to put an end to their troubles once and for all.

One of the reasons that this film works so well is the level of comedy the writers chose to use. Where many films nowadays will go for full-on raunchiness, Michael Markowitz, John Francis Daley, and Jonathan Goldstein opt to go for a blend of one-liners, sight gags, and just a little raunchiness. This ends up making the film really funny instead of just being in bad taste, or simply unfunny, a la the Sandler level of humor.

Now those of you who are big film fans will probably recognize that bit about having them kill each others’ bosses as a direct reference to Hitchcock’s “Strangers on a Train.” It is also directly referenced in two hilarious scenes by the characters, one of whom refers to it as “that Danny DeVito movie” (a joke that film buffs will get well before it’s explained), showing that this film is not above mocking the classics, though the plot could also be seen as a small homage to the master of suspense.

Other parts of the comedy that work so well are the interesting situations that the story puts the characters in. First off, we get to experience just how horrible their bosses are as we watch them go through their normal work days. This leads to them seeking out a supposed killer in a dark and dangerous bar that they would normally never go to as it puts them pretty far out of their element. We also get to witness them gathering intelligence on all three of the bosses by staking out their homes, and in two cases, breaking in to discover a little more about them. These situations are great springing points for more of the film’s humor.

To pull this off, a great cast was assembled that features two Oscar winners and several great comedians. Bateman, Day, and Sudeikis have great chemistry together and really make you feel for their situation. Sure, their reaction is a little extreme, but it brings in a lot of laughs in the process. Spacey, Aniston, and Farrell do a wonderful job at playing complete jerks who seem to have no scruples with the way they are behaving toward their employees. It would have been nice if Foxx had had a bigger role, but he gets a fair share of laughs as well.

The only somewhat bothersome issue that the film had was that the humor was a little lacking in the second half. The first half seemed like it was nonstop laughs, but when it came to the second half, the laughs were still there every once and a while, just not nearly as much as before. The second half seemed more concerned with wrapping up the plot than with getting laughs, which is fine due to the interesting situations that the characters are put in, but it would have been even better if they had been able to keep a constant level of humor throughout.

With this and “Bad Teacher,” that makes two decent comedies in a row, something that seems to happen very rarely nowadays. Most comedies of late (“The Hangover Part II,” “Your Highness”) merely seem to want to gross people out or just be as lewd as possible. It’s refreshing to see that some writers still like to turn an intriguing situation into one where laughs can flow naturally as opposed to attempting to force them out with extremely bad jokes. If only more comedy writers could see it this way. 3/4 stars.

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